Lazy Eye (amblyopia) is the decrease of vision in one eye, which is otherwise a healthy eye. It occurs when a child prefers to use one eye and stops using, or “shuts off”, the other eye. Despite the nickname of “lazy eye”, an eye with amblyopia is not actually lazy but is being ignored by the brain.
Vision develops during the first two years of life and continues until about age nine. Since each eye sends a slightly different image to the brain, our eyes and brain must learn how to work together so the two images are processed correctly into one clear image.
If there is a vision problem (severe nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) in one eye, the brain concentrates only on the images from the unaffected eye. A defect in the lens, such as a cataract, or a defect in the cornea can also cause lazy eye.
Lazy eye affects 1 in 40 children.
Strabismic lazy eye is the most common type of lazy eye, which typically presents as a crossed, wandering, or blurred.
Refractive lazy eye develops when one eye has significant nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, and the other does not.
Treatment during early childhood (up to ages 7-9) can usually reverse lazy eye. Without treatment, the child may never develop normal vision in the affected eye.
Eye drops may be used alone or in combination with an eye patch to blur vision in the “good eye” so that vision in the lazy eye can improve. The combination of glasses and the patch is very effective in promoting the development of good vision in both eyes.
An eye patch is the most common way to treat children with lazy eye. By placing a patch over the stronger eye, we “remind” the weaker eye to work.
Children may be resistant to wearing an eyepatch and covering the “good eye”. Parents can help by using a gentle approach and positive reinforcement. The patch is not a punishment; it’s helping their eye become stronger. Find visually stimulating activities your child enjoys. You may be surprised to learn that playing video games while wearing an eye patch yields the most visual improvement in the least amount of time.
Duration of treatment varies by child. Some children can wear a patch for only a few weeks and gain permanent improvement, while others may need to use the patch for months or even years.